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Re: explain?

> I was reading an 
> article/editorial in the Toronto Star it talked
> about how only southern Iraq 
> feels the pressure of the sanctions, while areas
> like Baghdad are 
> flourishing, this is because the foreign aid isn't
> distributed fairly.

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your e-mail, and questions.

Yes, different parts of the country clearly perform
differently.  In part this reflects historical
imbalances - the southern governorates often being
marginalised politically and economically.  In part
this reflects the current government's priorities:
maintaining control of the capital city is a high
priority in any goverment - Baghdad must be coddled if
power is to be retained.

This said, I have no idea to what extent the current
differences reflect these two factors, and to what
extent the Iraqi government uses "oil for food"
resources and non-"oil for food" in coddling.  While
the UN in Iraq reports quite regularly, there is a
strong belief that its ability to report - and what is
then finally reported from New York - is constrained
by the need for the Iraqi government to issue visas to
its staff.  Thus, while inequitable distribution of
OFF resources has not been reported by the
"humanitarian" agencies, one cannot conclude from this
that it does not occur.

A few brief notes: first, there is government spending
outside of "oil for food".  Smuggling allows a certain
amount of revenue, and there are domestic taxes -
although of what level, I do not know.

Second, the resources being distributed under "oil for
food" are not "foreign aid" in the typical sense. 
They are ordered and purchased by the Iraqi
government, not by foreign donors.  Further, as the
Iraqi government pays large deductions on oil sales
made under "oil for food", purchases under this
mechanism are - however warranted - more expensive
than are those outside of it.

Finally, while there are regional disparities, I don't
know that it's yet accurate to conclude that Baghdad
is flourishing.  My own experience of it is limited to
two weeks in December 2000.  It clearly wore the scars
of deterioration.

A "game" that I played by myself involved seeing how
many standard elements were missing in a taxi: the
absence of springs in the seat and the shattered
windscreen one took for granted; the question was
which of the rear view mirrors, the door handles, or
other components were also defunct.  This exercise can
be repeated in any number of other environments (the
biycle reflectors used in elevators, the absence of
working toilet pull chains, etc.).

Another "project" that I undertook was to find the
luxurious parts of Baghdad.  My motives for doing so
were likely mixed: on the one hand, I told myself that
I needed to see the contradictions here, rather than
allowing myself to rest comfortably with a simplistic
view of a uniformly poor society.  On the other, I
suspect that I wanted to sip coffee in a nice cafe on
a nice street and watch nice looking people pass by -
certainly a more pleasant experience than hopping the
dirty puddles of Saddam City.

I was surprised to discover that the luxurious
commercial parts of Baghdad that I found were still
pretty unimpressive.  The commercial sections of
Arasat Al-Hindiya and Mansour had nothing even on a
Guatemala City, in either size of grandeur.

So, yes, there are shops in Baghdad where one can buy
suits and ties at international prices, or microwaves,
N'Sync albums, etc.  But there are also children and
people working the streets, even in Baghdad.

> If it is true then why doesn't any of the info
> posted on the list deal with 
> the corruption of the IRaqi government, or whatever
> is responsible for not distributing aid equally.

This is a more difficult question for me to answer, as
it deals with the views of all members of the list. 
My sense has been that views critical of the Iraqi
government are certainly posted to this list.  This
said, what I think brings people to the list is a
common concern that the policies of our governments
are harming innocents.  This does not in any way
exonerate the Iraqi government of its role in this
tragedy, but it does mean that we have tended to focus
on what we regard as being, in some greater sense,
"our responsibility".

I hope that these thoughts help somewhat.  Please do
let me know if I can expand further on any of them.


Colin Rowat
274 Vanderbilt Ave., #2
Brooklyn NY 11205
(m) 917 517 5840
(f) 707 221 3672

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